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The effect of group size and space allowance on the agonistic and spacing behavior of cattle

Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0168-1591(89)90040-3


Abstract The number of agonistic encounters in a group (frequency per h) and the mean distance to the nearest neighbor in a group (m) were analyzed by a multiple regression on the group size (number of animals in a group) and space allowance (m 3 per animal) in each group of calves (6–13 months old, Holstein female and castrated male) and adult cattle (2–12 years old, Holstein heifers and cows or Holstein and Hereford grazing beef cattle). A total of 196 calves and 602 adult animals were used in this analysis. In calves, a significant correlation was found between agonistic behavior and space allowance ( r=−0.48, P<0.01), but not between agonistic behavior and group sizes. The mean distance to the nearest neighbor in calf groups increased as the group size decreased and space allowance increased ( R 2=0.66, P<0.01). In adult cattle, the number of agonistic encounters increased linearly as the group size increased ( r=+0.37, P<0.05). The relationship between agonistic behavior and 1 (space allowance) 2 was significant ( r=+0.48, P<0.05). The mean distance to the nearest neighbor tended to increase as the group size decreased and the space allowance increased ( R 2=0.68, P<0.01). When the space allowance increased beyond 360 m 2 per animal, the average distance to the nearest neighbor in the adult group was maintained within the range of 10–12 m.

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